Insights from the UK and beyond
Labour aren’t singing anymore
Unsurprisingly, it’s a totally different mood at this year’s Labour Party conference in Manchester.Last year in Bournemouth, they talked about crushing the opposition Conservatives for a generation as the party celebrated a 10 point lead in the polls under their new leader Gordon Brown.
Many were urging Brown to make the most of it and call an early election before the economy turned down. He really must be wishing he had.
A year on, Labour is facing the prospect of a total wipeout at the next election and Brown is the most unpopular prime minister in 70 years.
“Low key” – is how the wife of one Cabinet minister described the atmosphere so far. That’s an understatement. The normally raucous conference hotel bars had scant few faces in them even at 9pm as the lobbyists and politicos who usually pack them out decided to give the first day a miss.
Delegates will have woken up Sunday morning to an Observer newspaper predicting eight Cabinet members would lose their parliamentary seats at the next election and David Cameron’s Conservatives winning a landslide victory.
Cabinet members have been putting on a united front, saying it wasn’t the right time to be thinking about changing leader but a lot of people here are wondering whether Brown can hold on.
“He’ll go by July,” one former minister predicted to Reuters.
The prime minister’s aides, however, said that was just plain rubbish. “Who do you want dealing with an economic crisis? Gordon’s got the knowledge, Gordon’s got the relationships,” said one.
They might have a point. A poll for the Independent on Sunday newspaper showed the Conservative lead over Labour halved in the last week.
It’s still 12 points though. Until that changes, the leadership question will not go away.